Billions diverted to help combat virus in KZN schools, Newsline

Durban – THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education (DoE) had to stop some of its programmes to raise R2billion to combat the spread of Covid-19 in schools.

The department re-prioritised about R1.2bn of its own funds and an additional R1bn came from the Treasury Department.

Part of the money had already been spent and more was being invested in efforts to combat the virus, including the procurement of personal protective equipment, shields for desks and water.

Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu recently tabled the re-prioritised budget before the provincial legislature.

“The Covid-19 has completely altered the schooling system in a manner never anticipated. With the return of all grades in schools, it became practically impossible to accommodate all of them at once and still maintain social distancing,” said Mshengu.

He said the main appropriation of the department was R57.247bn for the 2020/21 financial year.

“However, during the year, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the department having to re-purpose its budget internally in response to the pandemic.”

In detailing the areas of re-prioritisation, he said a total R558million was re-purposed from Public Ordinary School Education function and R550m came from equitable share funding from compensation of employees in respect of vacant funded substitute and temporary educator posts.

He said an amount of R8.5m was re-purposed in respect of conditional grants, mainly from compensation of employees in respect of vacant budgeted posts and R32m was sourced from goods and services and R8m was from bursaries for employees. He said R80m was allocated to specific schools as per the gazette and would now be used to comply with Covid-19 regulations by ensuring that schools have cleaning and grass-cutting services.

He said the department had also taken over the paying of 6000 screeners from the Department of Public Works. “We have taken over the payment and we intend to make sure that the screeners are paid regularly and are paid on time in a predictable manner like all of us are.”

The education portfolio committee chairperson, Jomo Sibiya, said they were happy with how the department had re-repriorised its budget.

“The R1.2bn is the money that we had in the department and was for programmes, some of which we could no longer implement because of Covid-19.

“We urge the department to guard the money and for the employees that have been implicated in wrongdoing to be dealt with,” he said.

DA MPL Imran Keeka said they were concerned that there had been widespread abuse of the funds.

“There are companies which the DA believes also need to be put under the microscope of the Competition and Consumer Commissions for possibly ripping the DoE off,” he said.

IFP MPL Mntomuhle Khawula said the party was worried about the looting of funds.

“This government has failed in the most basic function of government, protecting the public purse.”

The Mercury